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Gertrude Stein: Part of a Life in Pictures by Carl Van Vechten

More than 200 photographs by Carl Van Vechten: includes Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas at home in France; plus portraits of Stein in America and of performers associated with Stein's 1934 opera Four Saints in Three Acts.

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Carl Van Vechten (1880-1964). Gertrude Stein, New York, Jan. 4, 1935. Digital ID: 483830 Carl Van Vechten (1880-1964). Gertrude Stein, New York, Jan. 4, 1935. Digital ID: 483830

Collection History

Gertrude Stein wrote the opera, Four Saints in Three Acts, in collaboration with American composer Virgil Thomson (1896-1989). The work had an all black cast which rehearsed in Harlem in 1933-34.

Friends since the 1920s, Gertrude Stein (1874-1946) named writer and photographer Carl Van Vechten (1880-1964) as her literary executor; among other acts, he helped to usher into print works of hers that remained unpublished at the time of her death.

200+ photographs of Stein and associates presented here are among a gift from Van Vechten of nearly 5,000 photographs taken by him and presented to NYPL over the years. (These additional photographs reside in several departments, allocated by subject: the Berg Collection and the Manuscripts and Archives Division in the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building; the Billy Rose Theatre Collection and the Jerome Robbins Dance Division in the Library for the Performing Arts; and the Photographs and Prints Division of the Schomburg Center. They are under consideration for future digital presentation.)


Carl Van Vechten began donating materials from his archives to the Library in 1941 and continued over two decades. In addition to photographs, he gave printed works and manuscripts, including substantially complete editions of books he inscribed, annotated, or revised, along with typescripts, manuscripts, notes, scrapbooks, portraits, and other material. As Sam P. Williams noted in his 1975 Guide to the Research Collections of The New York Public Library, this "unusually comprehensive collection makes it possible to trace the work of this distinguished author from rough notes through manuscripts, typescripts, and proofs, to printed volumes."

Related Resources

Byrd, Rudolph P., ed. Generations in Black and White: Photographs by Carl Van Vechten from the James Weldon Johnson Memorial Collection (c1993).

Davis, Keith F. The Passionate Observer: Photographs by Carl Van Vechten (c1993).

Kellner, Bruce. A Bibliography of the Work of Carl Van Vechten (1980).

_____ . Carl Van Vechten and the Irreverent Decades (c1968).

_____ . A Gertrude Stein Companion: Content with the Example (1988).

Kishimoto, Hisao. Carl Van Vechten: The Man and His Role in the Harlem Renaissance (1983).

Knapp, Bettina Liebowitz. Gertrude Stein (1990).

Kuhl, Nancy. Extravagant Crowd: Carl van Vechten's Portraits of Women (2003).

Mauriber, Saul, comp. Portraits, the Photography of Carl Van Vechten (c1978).

NYPL, Berg Collection. Carl Van Vechten collection of papers, 1922-1964.

______. Manuscripts and Archives Division. Carl Van Vechten papers, 1833-1965, bulk (1920-1940).

Souhami, Diana. Gertrude and Alice (1991).

Watson, Steven. Prepare for Saints: Gertrude Stein, Virgil Thomson, and the Mainstreaming of American Modernism (c1998).

Wineapple, Brenda. Sister Brother: Gertrude and Leo Stein (c1996).

Library Division(s)

NYPL Digital Gallery provides free and open access to over 800,000 images digitized from primary sources and printed rarities in the vast collections of The New York Public Library, including drawings, illuminated manuscripts, historical maps, vintage posters, rare prints and photographs, illustrated books, printed ephemera, and more.